Saturday, March 29, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 4: Problems of Population Control Segment 2/11
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A closer look at Colombia is directly relevant to what follows, and provides further insight into what counts as "democracy." In Colombia, the New York Times informs us, courageous people threatened by "violence from cocaine gangs" are struggling "to preserve democratic normalcy" and "to keep democratic institutions alive." The reference is not to peasants, union leaders, or advocates of social justice and human rights who face the violence of the military and the oligarchy. And crucially, democratic normalcy has never been threatened by the fact that the two parties that share political power are "two horses [with] the same owner" (former President Alfonso Lopez Michaelsen) -- not exactly a circumstance unfamiliar to us. Nor does a problem arise from the actual conditions of this "democratic normalcy." To mention a few, death squads have killed about 1,000 members of the one party not owned by the oligarchy (the Patriotic Union, UP) since its founding in 1985,6 leaving the unions and popular organizations with no meaningful political representation. Disappearance and execution of labor, Indian and community leaders is a regular part of daily life while "many Colombians insist that army troops often act as though they were an occupation force in enemy territory" (Americas Watch). These death squads dedicated to extermination of "subversives" are in league with the security forces (Amnesty International). An official government inquiry made public in 1983 found that over a third of members of paramilitary groups engaged in political killings and other terror were active-duty officers, a pattern that continues to the present, along with alliances with drug dealers, according to human rights inquiries (Alfredo Vásquez Carrizosa, president of the Colombian Permanent Committee for Human Rights and former Minister of Foreign Affairs). The death squads sow "an atmosphere of terror, uncertainty and despair," and "all families in which even one member is somehow involved in activities directed towards social justice" are under constant threat of disappearance and torture, conducted with "impunity" by the military and their allies (Pax Christi Netherlands), including "cocaine gangs" and the owner of the two horses. Political killings in 1988 and 1989 averaged 11 a day (Andean Commission of Jurists, Bogotá office).7

All of this leaves the playing field level and poses no threat to "democratic institutions," no challenge to "America's historic purpose."

Similarly, the growth of the drug cartels in Guatemala "has sparked sharp concern for the survival of the country's nascent democracy," Lindsey Gruson warns in the New York Times. "Guatemala's emergence as a major player in the international drug bazaar" -- along with Honduras and Costa Rica, now "routinely" used for drug transshipment -- "has sparked concern among United States diplomats that it will lead to a bitter Congressional debate over aid to this country, which is just emerging from international isolation after years of military rule."8

But events a few days earlier, routine for many years and too insignificant to reach the Times, aroused no qualms about the "nascent democracy" and did not threaten the flow of U.S. military and other aid. Wire services reported that "terrified by a new wave of political violence, the family of an abducted human rights activist fled this country [on September 23] after spending nearly six weeks holed up in a room at the Red Cross." The deputy federal attorney general for human rights says "It is incredible how this family has been persecuted" because of the human rights activities of Maria Rumalda Camey, a member of the Mutual Support Group of relatives of the disappeared. She was kidnapped by armed men in August, the fourth person in her family to disappear in 10 months; "the others eventually turned up -- all shot dead and dumped on roadsides." The family fled to the Mutual Support Group office in Guatemala City, but were evacuated by the Red Cross when a grenade was lobbed through the window half an hour after their arrival. "In the last two months," the report continues, "there has been a surge of killings and bombings," with mutilated bodies left by roadsides as warnings; this "surge" is beyond the normal level of atrocities by security forces and their unofficial wings and associates. Thus, on September 15, the Guatemalan press reported fifteen bodies bearing signs of torture found in one 24-hour period in one southwestern province; before the men were abducted they had been followed by an army vehicle from a nearby military base, according to a survivor. A few days later, the body of a student was found, the seventh of 12 recently "disappeared" in the classic style of the security forces of the U.S. client states. Other bodies were found with parts cut off and signs of torture. Thousands of peasants who returned from Mexico after promises of land and security are planning to flee to Mexican refugee camps as a result of the violence and the failure of the government to honor its promises, the local press reports.9

The targets are peasants, activists and organizers. Hence the "nascent democracy" suffers at most minor flaws, and is secure from international isolation or funding cutoff -- at least, as long as it does not offend the master's interests.10

By such means as skillful manipulation of human rights concerns and a finely tuned "yearning for democracy," the ideological institutions labored to reconstruct the image of benevolence; and among articulate elites at least, the success has been remarkable. The complementary task was to reconstruct the climate of fear. To this end, it was necessary to bewail the triumphs of the Soviet enemy, marching from strength to strength, conquering the world, building a huge military system to overwhelm us. The effort achieved a brief success, though by the mid-1980s it had to be abandoned as the costs of "defense" against these fearsome challenges became intolerable. We may therefore concede that "it is now clear that the gravity of developments in 1980 was exaggerated" (Robert Tucker): the threat to our existence posed by Soviet influence in South Yemen, Laos, Grenada, and other such powerhouses was not quite so grave as he and other sober analysts had thought. By 1983, the CIA conceded that from 1976, the rate of growth of Soviet defense spending had dropped from 4-5% to 2% and the rate of growth of weapons procurement flattened, exactly contrary to the claims advanced to justify the Carter program of rearmament that was implemented in essentials in the Reagan years. In a careful reanalysis of the data, economist Franklyn Holzman concludes that the ratio of Soviet military expenditures to GNP scarcely changed from 1970 and the total appears to be "considerably less" than U.S. expenditures (not to speak of the fact that U.S. NATO allies outspend Soviet Warsaw pact allies by more than 5 to 1, that 15-20% of Soviet expenditures are devoted to the China front, and that its allies have hardly been reliable). "The Soviet military spending gap," he concludes, "like the `bomber gap' of the 1950s and the `missile gap' of the 1960s, turns out to be a myth."11

From the early years of the Cold War, the real menace has been "Soviet political aggression" (Eisenhower) and what Adlai Stevenson and others called "internal aggression." A powerful NATO military alliance, Eisenhower held, should "convey a feeling of confidence which will make [its members] sturdier, politically, in their opposition to Communist inroads," that is, to "political aggression" from within by "Communists," a term understood broadly to include labor, radical democrats, and similar threats to "democracy." Citing these remarks in his history of nuclear weapons, McGeorge Bundy adds that Eisenhower "did not believe the Russians either wanted or planned any large-scale military aggression."12

This understanding was common among rational planners, which is not to deny that they readily convinced themselves that Soviet hordes were on the march when such doctrines were useful for other ends. Part of the concern over the fading of the Soviet threat is that the appropriate images can no longer be conjured up when we must again rush to the defense of privileged sectors against internal aggression.

In the early Reagan years, the Soviet threat was manipulated for the twin goals of Third World intervention and entrenching the welfare state for the privileged. Transmitting Washington's rhetoric, the media helped to create a brief period of public support for the arms build-up while constructing a useful myth of the immense popularity of the charismatic "great communicator" to justify the state-organized party for the rich. Other devices were also used. Thanks to the government-media campaign, 60% of the public came to perceive Nicaragua as a "vital interest" of the United States by 1986, well above France, Brazil, or India. By the mid-1980s, international terrorism, particularly in the Middle East, assumed center stage. To appreciate the brilliance of this propaganda feat, one must bear in mind that even in the peak years of concern, 1985-6, the U.S. and its Israeli ally were responsible for the most serious acts of international terrorism in this region, not to speak of the leading role of the United States in international terrorism elsewhere in the world, and in earlier years. The worst single terrorist act in the region in 1985 was a car-bombing in Beirut that killed 80 people and wounded 250. It was graphically described, but did not enter the canon, having been initiated by the CIA. To cite another striking example, in 1987 it was revealed that one of the many terrorist operations mounted against Cuba took place at a particularly tense moment of the missile crisis; a CIA-dispatched terrorist team blew up a Cuban industrial facility with a reported death toll of 400 workers, an incident that might have set off a nuclear war. I found not a single reference in the media in the midst of the continuing fury over the "plague of international terrorism" spread by crazed Arabs backed by the KGB in the effort to undermine the West. Respected scholarly work also keeps strictly to the official canon.13

Such menaces as Nicaragua and international terrorists have the advantage that they are weak and defenseless. Unlike the Soviet enemy, Grenada and Libya can be attacked with impunity, eliciting much manly posturing and at least a few moments of rallying round the flag. In contrast, we could rail against the Soviet enemy, but no more. But for the same reason, the menace is difficult to sustain. To enhance credibility, the selected targets have regularly been linked to the Evil Empire, evidence having its usual irrelevance. But these charges too have lost their force, and new monsters are badly needed to keep the population on course.

Enter the Medell¡n cartel.

Go to the next segment.

7 James Brooke, NYT, Sept. 24, 1989; Tina Rosenberg, New Republic, Sept. 18, 1989; Americas Watch, Human Rights in Colombia as President Barco Begins, Sept. 1986; AI analyst Robin Kirk, Extra! (FAIR), Summer 1989; Vásquez Carrizosa, in Colombia Update, Colombian Human Rights Committee, Dec. 1989, citing Attorney General's study of 1983, Americas Watch report of April 1989, and other sources; Impunity, Pax Christi Netherlands and the Dutch Commission Justitia et Pax, report of an October-November 1988 investigative mission. For extensive details, see the report of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal of the International League for the Rights of Peoples, Bogotá, Nov. 4-6, 1989, and International League, El Camino de la Niebla (Bogotá, 1990); also chapter 7, pp. 226f.

8 Gruson, NYT, Oct. 1, 1989.

9 AP, Sept. 23; Human Rights Update, Guatemala Human Rights Commission, Sept. 25, 1989.

10 Some months later, the U.S. government turned against the Christian Democratic government, hoping to install more reactionary clients in the forthcoming elections. Predictably, the press ran a few articles on Guatemalan atrocities as part the effort. See chapter 12, pp. 383f.

11 Holzman, "Politics and Guesswork: CIA and DIA estimates of Soviet Military Spending," International Security, Fall 1989.

12 Bundy, Danger and Survival, 237-8.

13 John E. Rielly, American Public Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1987 (Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 1987). On terrorism and terrorology, see references of chapter 12, note 45. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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